Alexis Catsambis

Expedition continues search for 220-year-old shipwreck

Bonhomme Richard

By Geoff Ziezulewicz - Stars and Stripes

With his ship ablaze and much of his crew dead, John Paul Jones had the chance to surrender to the British on Sept. 23, 1779. Instead, Jones, dubbed the father of the U.S. Navy, is said to have declared: “I have not yet begun to fight !”

After the British surrendered, Jones’ men tried to save his Bonhomme Richard, but it sank in the North Sea.

Now, more than 220 years later, a team of scientists, Navy enthusiasts and archaeologists is trying to find its remains.

“Bonhomme Richard would be one of the most important archaeological discoveries in U.S. naval history,” said Alexis Catsambis, manager of the Naval History and Heritage Command’s underwater archaeology branch.

“Discovery would bring with it knowledge of the historic battle, life aboard a ship of the Continental navy, and information about the construction and armament of the ship itself.”

Led by the Ocean Technology Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to undersea research and education, the annual expeditions are slowly ruling out chunks of the sea floor as they look for the ship’s iron ballasts, cannons and other bits that would not have deteriorated over the centuries.

Last summer, the Navy supplied the salvage ship USNS Grasp to aid in the expedition.

Onboard the Grasp during the 27-day expedition were members of Mobile Diving Salvage Unit 2.

“Coming out here and actually diving in the ocean in a real-world situation was very unique,” Chief Warrant Officer Raymond Miller said, adding that most of the crew’s dives consist of shallower water training in Maryland’s Patuxent River.

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